Bring on 1984….

Digital signage has been with us for a while, but is just now gaining serious traction in retail locations of all types and sizes. The goal of interacting with customers in a dynamic way really has its roots in the analog, programmable electronic message signs introduced in the early 1980’s. I can remember the curiosity and fleeting smiles raised on people by these pioneers while I was briefly involved in their sales many, many years ago.

However, back then, and until quite recently, the drawbacks of price and ease of use hampered wide spread distribution and usage.  But now the game is different. Jeff Hastings, writing in itbusinessnet.com points to the following 6 success factors in the new breed of digital signage:

– Content and screen layout design
– Interactivity
– Synchronization
– Networking
– Open platform
– Portability

These now available factors are the key reasons integrators report that retailers are not only installing more new digital signage solutions, but are also upgrading existing  installations with new, easier to use technology. While all of these factors are important to the exploding usage of these devices for communication, I believe the keys are open platform (“I don’t want to make a mistake”) and interactivity. No longer are these signs just attention grabbing electronic billboards… the capacity now exists (and at a reasonable price) to interact with consumers and gain valuable information using touch tone screens or their phones.

Touch, gesture, geo-location and image recognition have taken us beyond a one-way digital connection to new ways of effectively engaging the customer.  For example, a recent InfoTrends study reported that digital signage displays:
* Provide  47.7 percent effectiveness increase on brand awareness
* Actually increase the average purchase amount by 29.5 percent
* Generate a 32.8 percent growth in repeat buyers
* Generate not only a 32.8 percent more in-store traffic but customers spend 30 percent more time in the store

This interactivity is the key to taking these signs from promoting items of specific importance to the retailer to being able to communicate and promote items of interest to that specific consumer. Interactivity also enhances the ability to sell luxury, high ticket items through this signage, as opposed to acting simply as a reminder for often purchased or impulse buys.

In this era of mass customization, this one-on-one communication is not only powerful stuff, but almost necessary in many industries to stay in the game.

Deena Amato-McCoy notes in Drawing Attention (Stores.org) that information is captured when smart phones engage with these signs, whether the proposed transaction is accepted or declined. To many my age and older, it would seem that we are opting voluntarily into the age foreseen by George Orwell in 1984. But the truth is today that the majority of the consuming population finds this ability to be recognized and catered to by marketers a necessary convenience and almost seductive on some levels.

 

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